Global Investing

The final frontier market

As a fallout in emerging markets — once hailed as a safe-haven from the global financial crisis — gathers pace, asset managers are scrambling for newer markets.

What about North Korea? The Stalinist country boasts large untapped natural resources with deposits of gold, coal, zinc and other minerals. It has virtually no capital markets and its banks are all state-owned — making it a true safe haven from the global financial crisis.

The communist state has a good logistics route. It has borders with China, Russia and of course South Korea and a short sea route to Japan. South Korean firms such as Hyundai and LG already invest in the North.

KoryoAsia Limited has just launched subscription to the ChosunFund, a fund designed specifically for investment in North Korea. It is seeking to raise an initial $50 million.

“The DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) has effectively been cut off from the international business community for decades. The country holds huge natural resources but is capital starved and lacks the technology and management skills with which to develop them.” Colin McAskill, Executive Chairman of KoryoAsia, says.

Commodities hedge funds feel the heat

rtx7ukh.jpgThe heat is on for hedge funds with commodities bets.

Earlier this week Ospraie Management told investors it is shutting its flagship fund after it plunged 27 percent in August. The fund’s energy and commodities stock positions fell as investors worried if a global economic slowdown will mean less demand for resources.

And now RAB Capital’s Philip Richards is giving up the CEO role to focus on his funds after an awful period of performance for his once high-flying Special Situations fund.

Losses on small-cap mining stocks, as well as its high-profile error in buying into troubled bank Northern Rock, meant its listed feeder fund fell 38.1 percent from the start of the year to Aug. 21.

Will invasion of Georgia steel EU into kicking its addiction to Russian oil and gas?

As George Bush might say, the EU is addicted to Russian energy. While no member wants to kick the habit totally, Brussels would like the bloc to reduce its growing dependence.

Even before Moscow invaded Georgia, the main non-Russian route for exporting Central Asian and Azeri crude and gas to Europe, the EU watched Russia’s regular cuts in energy supplies to neighbours with concern.

But EU members have been reluctant to take the hard measures that would allow them to bypass Russia, so analysts think their reliance on Moscow will grow.

Using terrorism to gauge oil’s impact

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Do oil price spikes cause recessions? It is a controversial question and one that is very much a propos. It is all very chicken-and-egg, of course. If oil is soaring because of overheating economic demand, is it the demand or the ensuing rise in oil prices that causes the crash?

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Britain’s Centre for Economic Policy Research has had a go at trying to answer this with a report written by Natalie Chen and Andrew Oswald from the University of Warwick and Liam Graham from University College London. The twist was that the academics used terrorist incidents as an instrumental variable. Roughly, they looked at the impact of a sharp rise in oil prices on the profitability of various industries. By using terrorist events, they stripped out macroeconomic drivers and focused on something that was separate from the business cycle.

Did banks get wires crossed on EDF deal?

pylon.jpgThe last-minute collapse of the 12 billion pound sale of British Energy to EDF raises the question of how well banks behind the deal were plugged in with major shareholders, who ended up vetoing the acquisition.

Having worked on a sale for months, banks were told by private shareholders EDF’s bid of around 775 pence per share was too low. The news clearly left all the parties in disarray.

Such deals are always risky, but the withdrawal of major British Energy shareholders after months of haggling over the price suggests a full-blown row. After all, an indication of where the price was heading had been floating around for at least a week.

EDF fails to push Britain’s nuclear button

british-energys-heysham-nuclear-power-station.jpgA dramatic last-minute hitch to plans for France’s EDF to buy British Energy leaves managements, shareholders and especially the British government in a quandary.

It was a 12 billion pounds ($24 billion) deal that was supposed to relaunch Britain’s nuclear energy programme. Everyone had been told to expect it. In fact, the collapse of talks came too late for French newspapers, several of which had been briefed on the deal and splashed it prominently on their front pages on Friday.

In end, however, big insitutional investors persuaded British Energy to reject EDF’s offer as low-ball, despite the best endeavours of the British government, with a 35-percent stake.